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The Shape She Makes Work of Art At Oberon

A Spectacular Fusion of Movement and Dialogue

By: Mark Favermann - Apr 19, 2014

The Shape She Makes
A World Premiere Dance/Theater Piece
Conceived by Susan Misner and Jonathan Bernstein
Written and Directed by Jonathan Bernstein
Choreographed by Susan Misner
The company of actor/dancers is led by Susan Misner, and includes Michael Balderrama, Mary Cavett, Nina Goldman, Deidre Goodwin, Benjamin Howes, Seán Martin Hingston, Sydney K. Penny, Jermaine Maurice Spivey, and Finnerty Steeves.
The creative crew includes set design by Sara Brown, costume design by Sarah Cubbage, lighting design by Dan Scully, sound design by M.L. Dogg,
and projection and video design by Darrel Maloney. Music is composed by Julia Kentand Son Lux and music supervisor is Mary-Mitchell Campbell.
At The Oberon
Located at 2 Arrow Street, Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA 02138
Presented by The American Repertory Theatre
For tickets please e-mail the A.R.T. box office: boxoffice@amrep.orgApril 5 through April 27, 2014 

The Shape She Makes expands the way we think about and define theatre. Exceptional is not a good enough descriptive accolade to characterize what takes place at the Oberon.

It is truly a special show by special performers that asks whether our terrible past experiences can literally constrict our personal growth and ability to change in the future. 

With graceful movements, swirling gestures and touching acting, The Shape She Makes is an original work of art that brilliantly blurs the lines between dance and dialogue.

To call this show a hybrid art form would demean the quality of its fusion of drama and dance. It may just be a new theatrical structure, a new way of theatre.

Dance is an art form that involves movement of the body and its various parts, and it is performed as a form of emotional expression, social interaction or cultural tradition.

Dance is a form of nonverbal communication, behavior patterns and even mating rituals. All of these aspects of dance inhabit The Shape She Makes and inform the play’s narrative. In a very visceral sense, we actually are made to feel what we see and hear.

Conceived by Susan Misner and Jonathan Bernstein, this world premiere dance/theatre event is simply exceptional, provocative and touching. Misner choreographed while Bernstein wrote and directed it.

The story follows two paths: one in the past and one in the present. Eventually they intersect. Like the storylines, dance and dialogue are intertwined as well.

Dance seamlessly punctuates and beautifully extends the poignant spoken words of the narrative. The audience is transfixed by the interplay of movement, gesture and very realistic dialogue. 

Susan Misner is a tour de force in her performance. As wonderful an actor as a dancer, her brilliant characterizations of Louise, young and old, are at once sensual, elegant, eloquent, sympathetic but not really likable. This is a feat extremely hard to pull off. 

The fact that Misner choreographed and conceived of the show adds to her impressive glory. Though she already possesses an impressive resumé, hers is a luminous star turn.

All of the other performers were superb as well. It truly was an ensemble effort.

Special mention should be made of Sean Martin Hingston as Bernard and Sydney K. Penny as the young Quincy. They brought depth and personality to their characters.

Swaddled in a very realistic fatsuit, perhaps one of the most interesting performances was by Finnerty Seeves as Ms. Calvin. Her individual "dance" was quite different, she moved with the heaviness and ambiguity of prejudicial weight and the burden of lifelong angst.

Another actor visually presented is Blackstone Testing Incorporated. The Blackstone test is a meaningful part of the storyline. Its problems and solutions projected during the show underscored the notion that even when you get things completely right, you still can get them extremely wrong.

The stagecraft is minimalist but extremely effective and effecting. Sara Brown's set design and Dan Scully's light design simply furnish and illuminate the narrative and movement. String was used to establish space and place in extraordinary ways.

M.L. Dogg's sound design is 21st Century neat. The projection and video design by Darrel Maloney completed the performances.

Deserving of great kudos, Jonathan Bernstein and Susan Misner have created a new form of theatre. It is creatively brilliant, moving, evocative and provocative.

The Shape She Makes is simply wonderful. That is to say full of wonder. It is a true work of extraordinary art.